Preparing secondary students for employment, further training and the changing world of work is of keen interest to employers, educationalists and policymakers alike.
But there is also strong interest in how VET studies help the development of employability skills.
What is the report about?
The report by Josie Misko and her colleagues from NCVER “is one part of a larger program of research investigating whether VET programs delivered to secondary students add value to their post-school destinations.”
The question they asked was whether or not VET studies at school equips students with all the skills required to successfully participate in an ever-changing world of work. To do this they looked back over the last 20 years.
It follows on from an earlier report from 2017 which examined the characteristics and post-school employment and training experiences of VET-in-schools students.
The numbers and trends are interesting
Numbers of VET-in-schools’ students have increased at least 4-fold since 1996, and there were just over 242,000 in 2017 – while there was slowing growth, even declines in numbers, in more recent years. Indigenous student numbers have also increased substantially since 2006 to its 2017 level of over 14 600 and their proportion of Indigenous secondary students nearly doubled from 3.2% to 6.0%. More males than females, around 18,000 to be precise, undertake VET while at school. But, as the report points out:
“…proportionately more females were enrolled in certificate III qualifications and above [while] the converse was true for certificate II qualifications.”
What are they studying?
Like the VDC News item on Gen Z, the report found studies were gender segmented: caring, business, hospitality and beauty services for females, and information technology, trades, sport, fitness and recreation for males.
In Certificate II qualifications where males outnumbered females, the most popular were vocational preparation programs and those concerned with trade skills development, that is: pre-vocational programs.
Developing non-technical skills
As the report points out:
“…secondary schools have a range of educational, social, cultural and personal development goals and these may sometimes run counter to the industry-specific skills required by industry for VET programs.”
Thus, schools also help students “to develop knowledge and understanding of the world of work in general, explore a range of career options and progress through and complete their other educational subjects.”
The authors looked at the development of non-technical skills using content analysis, but their analysis was short and equivocal. My point would be that the non-technical skills will always be in a Training Package or course; they have to be. But that doesn’t mean that the delivery process has been designed to focus on and develop these key skills effectively.
Some ways forward?
The report’s suggestions include looking at how VET programs could better service the needs of students who may be at risk of leaving school. Another suggestion is “examining the pathways taken and outcomes for those students who undertake VET during secondary schooling and then move into university programs.” But they also point out that multi-dimensional pathways really need looking at too, where students move in and out of education, training and work so that we better understand the connections between the VET qualifications taken at schools and their post-school destinations.